The Book of Philemon is one of the shortest books in scripture and it is certainly one of Paul’s shortest letters.
At the heart of Philemon is an appeal for forgiveness, grace and mercy. Paul is writing to Philemon with hopes that Philemon will have mercy on Onesimus, a servant who ran away and found Paul.
So far this book has shown us:
- A Biblical approach to conflict resolution: (click here)
- The importance of appeals to heart (click here)
- The challenge to see the value in others (click here)
Paul’s appeal to Philemon’s heart and spirit of forgiveness continues in verse 12:
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.
After appealing to the heart of Philemon in verse 11, Paul lays it on thick in verse 12. Onesimus is now more than just a servant — he is the representation of Paul and he is going back to Philemon.
13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary.
As a reminder, Paul is in jail as he is writing this letter to Philemon. Onesimus has been useful to Paul and has helped him during this time of imprisonment. Paul elevates Onesimus from being a “servant of Philemon” to being a “servant of God.” Paul does not want to force his friend, Philemon, into a decision — he wants it to be Philemon’s choice.
Then, Paul moves to address Onesimus’ status as a servant/slave:
15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
Paul is helping Philemon to see that what has happened with Onesimus is not just an isolated event. For Paul, this is a piece of the bigger puzzle of what God is doing. Onesimus ran away for ahile but it was so that he could be more than a slave — he could be a brother to both Paul and Philemon.
Paul challenges his friend, Philemon, to see that Onesimus is now something bigger in the Kingdom of God. Onesimus is now a brother and a fellow disciple.
If Paul was writing this letter about you, what would he point to? What struggle, what challenge in your life would he point to? How would he challenge someone else to see your life and how it fits in the bigger picture of what God is doing?
It’s one of those quotes that floats around the Web and it’s attributed to many different people, but, maybe, it will speak to you about your piece in the puzzle. It goes like this:
Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph and a victim into a victory.
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